Floodplain Harvesting

Floodplain Harvesting

Floodplain Harvesting involves the storage and conservation of floodwater as it moves across the floodplain

Floodplain Harvesting (FPH) is a small but important form of water for communities. FPH in NSW makes up just 3% of the total water in the Northern Basin but contributes approximately 25% of the water used for irrigation in the region.  

Governments are in the process of subjecting FPH to the same regulatory framework that applies to other forms of water take in NSW. This involves limiting floodplain to the Sustainable Diversion Limits under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, requiring landholders to hold a licence, and to meter their floodwater take.  

This will reduce FPH in NSW from 3% to just 2% of the total water in the Northern Basin. This transfer of water from irrigators to the environment will be the largest transfer of water out of industry since the water recovery under the Basin Plan.  

This will be a significant adjustment for the impacted valleys in the northern Basin, with independent reports indicating a 14% reduction to irrigators’ bottom lines, with flow-on economic impacts to communities, such as 41 job losses per annum in the Gwydir valley alone.    

Despite this, irrigators’ are accepting of the reform, as an important public interest environmental reform, and as part of NSW meeting obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and state and commonwealth laws.  

NSW DPIE-Water modelling finds the reform will meet environmental water requirements more often, including of native vegetation (+82%), native fish (+97%) and waterbirds (+142%).  

The reform was conceived decades ago, as part of the National Water Initiative (blueprint to Australia’s water reform), which set out to have every form of water take reduced to sustainable limits, and subject to licensing and metering for compliance and enforcement with limits. This will be a significant step for a state to bring floodwater into this regulatory framework, with NSW set to be the first state to do so. 

Environmental outcomes of implementation of the Floodplain Harvesting Policy

Measuring Floodplain Harvesting take

Management of rainfall runoff from irrigation areas

Overland flow management in NSW